08 May 2012

Broody Hen Saga - Part One

Back in March we had a broody hen - one of the four that we got from Gretchen and Haley, via Scott and Fred.  We were wanting another chicken or two, and there are a number of ways to get one.  If you have a broody hen and fertile eggs, the "problem" of not enough chickens usually solves itself.  I wasn't totally committed to the idea, but I halfheartedly decided to let our broody hen sit on a couple of eggs and see what happened.  I decided I wanted more Rhode Island Reds, and, since we had a dominant RIR rooster and a couple of RIR hens, you're pretty much guaranteed to get some RIR chicks.

I marked both eggs with an "X" and put them under the broody hen.  I realized afterward, if I hadn't before, was that most hens want to use the same nesting box.  They would kick the broody hen out, lay their eggs, and she would get back in and sit on the other eggs too.  I was fairly careful when I collected the eggs to leave the marked eggs...but I wasn't careful enough.  I took a bunch of eggs to my family when we visited for my mom's birthday, and during the next couple of days, I realized one of our marked eggs was missing.  I made a couple of urgent phone calls and emails warning against using that egg.  I never heard whether anyone found it, but a week or more later, my grandmother ran across one in her group of eggs.  I think at that point I couldn't find the other egg either!  Trying to hatch eggs was a little more complicated than I thought.

Eventually more of our little white hens became broody and they started crowding the nesting box - two, then three, then four, then five!  Despite the number of broody hens, I decided then was the time to put some eggs underneath them.  Since so many were broody, there weren't many eggs to be had.  I didn't want RIRs - I thought there was a chance they weren't fertile, and I wasn't sure what chicks from a blue silkie rooster and RIRs would look like!  I saved up eight eggs and marked them really well and put them under however many broody hens were in the box at the time.  The more hens there were in the nesting box, the harder it became to get to the fresh eggs.  Not only was it hard to fish out the recent ones, the hens with the red combs were very defensive of the eggs.  They would peck at me, even drawing blood twice.  The other hens would just make noises and puff their feathers up.  It got to the point that I felt like it was unsafe for them, me and the future chicks.  It was moving day...

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